Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said On Saturday, the state is working with Elon Musk to expand internet access in the hurricane-devastated regions of southwest Florida using its Starlink satellite internet service, marking the company’s latest push to expand service to a troubled region.
DeSantis said the company plans to send 120 “large Starlink units” to Florida to act as satellite dishes to distribute internet connections to devices within a 13-mile radius.
Many of the terminals are slated to go to Lee County, where dozens have died and coastal communities have been devastated after suffering a direct hit from Category 4 Hurricane Ian on Wednesday.
Search and rescue teams will also be prioritized when accessing Starlink units, DeSantis said.
According to the governor, Starlink will cover “all costs associated with all coverage” in full.
The effort in Florida comes just over a week after the US allowed Starlink to begin providing services to Iran, where the government cracked down on internet access in response to protests after a woman allegedly over arrested for improperly wearing a headscarf, died in police custody. Starlink has also prioritized internet access for Ukraine since Russia invaded in February, with a Ukrainian official saying in May that about 150,000 people used Starlink internet there every day. Photos from Southwest Florida show essentially obliterated coastal communities and major damage to infrastructure, including destroyed coastal roads. Musk has said Starlink’s goal is to provide internet access in areas where ground services are traditionally unavailable or unreliable.
72% So much of Lee County remains without power, according to PowerOutage.us. The county has a population of more than 750,000 and includes communities such as Fort Myers and Sanibel.
Starlink’s efforts in Iran have been criticized for having little impact on internet availability, although the main downside appears to be the lack of ability to access terminals in Iran, which may not be an issue in Florida.
We estimate Musk is worth $247.9 billion, making him the richest man in the world.
Musk’s Starlink Could Bring Iran’s Internet Service During Government Crackdown (Forbes)
Hurricane Ian: These are the areas of Florida hardest hit by the Category 4 storm (Forbes)
Why Elon Musk’s Starlink Won’t Impact Iran Protests (Al Jazeera)
Hurricane Ian death toll at 56 in Florida – likely to climb higher (Forbes)